Vegan Coconut Cream-Mandarin Orange Cheesecake Extraordinaire with Spicy Peanut-Gingersnap Crust
+ a Plain Cheesecake Option

Are you ready?  Ready for the best cheesecake that will ever pass your lips (if I do say so)?  If so, then keep reading.  And if you could care less about the back story and want to get straight to the heart of the matter, by all means, scroll down to the recipe below.

True confession: my first attempt at veganizing my dear friend and inspired culinarian, Yvette Hetrick’s, cheesecake was an eipic fail.  According to prevailing wisdom, one should never make a dish for the first time for company.  But I did.  And while it was beautiful and edible and our friends were very gracious, it was in no way up to my high standards.

There were so many issues. For starters, the chili-infused gingersnap crust was delicious but overcooked.  In addition the top cracked, though not resulting in terrible craters; the mandarin orange compote/jam swirled into the batter never set (I’m not sure how it would even in a dairy version) and the cheescecake around it was underdone; and Y’s beautiful concentric circles of mandarin orange sections deocrating the top made it difficult to cut.  However, the worst infraction was it’s dark color and strangely “off” taste.

Disappointed but driven, I did what I always do: I researched, I ruminated, I re-imagined, and I cherry-picked the best aspects of a number of cheesecakes, both vegan and not, and tried it again, this time with stellar, can’t-top-this results.  And I served it again to the same friends who raved.

To solve the overcooked crust issue, I made it exactly the same, only I froze it rather than baked it before filling.  To prevent the top from cracking, I baked the cheesecake at a lower temperature–325 instead of 350 degrees–and, as before, I let it cool completely in the oven with the door partially open.  And to make sure it cooked through, instead of swirling a purchased–and bitter–orange jam into the batter, I made my own compote and used it to top the cheesecake which solved the underdone issue as well as the difficult-to-slice issue of decoration.

Regarding the dark color and “off” taste, I decided that, though I love coconut sugar and demerera sugar as much as the next gal–in fact, it’s all I bake with–a beautiful white, delicate, clean-tasting cheesecake calls for white granulated sugar. Sorry.  But that’s just the long and short of it.  The rich color and deep flavor of other less processed “brown” sugars simply results in a vastly inferior product.

So, now, with  no fruther ado, I present to you my little slice of paradaise.
Note:  to make the best plain cheesecake you’ve ever eaten, simply prepare a traditional graham cracker crust, substitute plain soy or almond milk for coconut milk, and omit orange liqueur, orange zest and optional coconut extract.  Never fear, this cheesecake is delicious with no topping at all, but feel free to top with any flavor compote or other concoction you choose.

Crust:

4 cups whole gingersnap cookies (the crispy/crunchy kind)

1 cup spicy peanuts (or your favorite spicy nut)

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup vegan butter, melted

Pulse cookies in a food processor until coarse crumbs are formed.  Add nuts and sugar and continue pulsing until finer crumbs are formed.  Drizzle in butter and pulse just until moist clumbs are formed.  Distriubte mixture into the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch springform pan and press evenly onto the bottom and 2 inches up the sides of the pan.  Freeze while you prepare filling.

Filling:

14 ounces firm tofu, drained

16 ounces vegan cream cheese (I use Tofutti brand)

1 cup granulated organic white sugar

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 cup thick coconut milk (I use So Delicious Culinary Coconut Cream purchased at Whole Foods)

Juice of 1/2 large lemon

Zest of 1/2 large orange

1/4 cup orange liqueur (e.g. Grand Marnier or Triple Sec)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 teaspoon almond extract

Optional: 1 teaspoon coconut extract (for a more pronounced coconut flavor)

Topping–Mandarin Orange Compote:

2-10.5 ounce cans mandarin oranges

1/4 cup orange liqueur

Zest of 1/2 of large orange

2 tablespoons cornstarch

Garnish:

Shaved coconut, fresh mint sprigs, and optional whipped coconut cream or Coco-Whip

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Rinse and wipe out bowl of food processor.  Process tofu and cream cheese until smooth.  Add all remaining filling ingredients and continue processing until creamy and silky smooth.  Pour into frozen crust and gently smooth top.  Place cheesecake on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour and 20 to 30 minutes or until set, very lightly browned around edges, and slightly jiggly only in the very center.  Turn off oven, open oven door halfway, and allow to cool completely in the oven which will take several hours.  Cover and chill for a couple of hours.

Meanwhile make Mandarin Orange Compote.  Drain 1 can of oranges, reserving juice in a small bowl, and place the orange sections in a medium saucepan with remaining can of oranges in juice.  Add orange liqueur and orange zest and bring to a simmer.  Simmer for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring frequently.  Whisk cornstarch into reserved orange juice and slowly pour into simmering mixture, stirring continually.  Simmer a couple more minutes, remove from heat, transfer to a heat-proof bowl, and refrigerate until very cold.

Run a knife around the edge of the cheesecake, remove it from the pan and place it on serving platter.  Spread half of compote evenly over the top of the cheesecake, mound shaved coconut in the center, and add a sprig of mint or two.  Serve in slices with an additional mint sprig if you choose, and pass remaining compote.  If you really want to gild the lily, also pass a bowl of whipped coconut cream or a prepared product like Coco-Whip.

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Vegan 3-Layer Savory Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Kale, Pepita and Sage Pesto Ribbon–The PERFECT Use for Leftover Mashed Sweet Potatoes! (A Tofutti Exclusive!)

Savory 3-Layer Mashed Sweet Potato and Kale Pesto Cheesecake

Yield: 8 servings

This elegant-but-easy (stupid easy!) dish is the perfect way to use leftover mashed sweet potatoes after Thanksgiving or any time.  Though leftover sweet potatoes are almost unheard of in our house, we did have a little remaining after a recent dinner party, and this luscious cheesecake was the result.  It is perfect for brunch, lunch, dinner, or sliced thin for an appetizer.

For the recipe, just click HERE!

 

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Vegan (and Parve) Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream (with mousse option)–A Tofutti Exclusive!

Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream 3Yield: 1 quart

This is the perfect summer-into-fall recipe!

I love the challenge of developing recipes exclusively for Tofutti Brands, Inc.  When they recently requested a parve recipe for pumpkin ice cream, I mentally created the recipe for a Pumpkin Cheesecake Ice Cream, as I wanted to use their Better than Cream Cheese; and then I set out on a hunt for certified parve products in our local Kroger.

Imagine my delight when every single ingredient I wanted to use, save graham crackers, qualified, provided I chose specific brands!  And I was able to substitute matzo meal for the graham crackers in the crumble topping with a wonderful outcome.

Parve or not, I trust you will rave about this beautifully colored, creamy textured ice cream like my guests have.  And you might be as excited as I was to learn that it is delicious served as a mousse before freezing!

Note: the specific brands of products listed are pareve.  If you adhere to a Pareve diet and choose other brands, be sure to look for the identifying symbol on the package.  Also, when selecting Tofutti Better than Cream Cheese–or Better than Sour Cream–please note that they company offers two kinds:  one contains transfat and one does not; I opt for the latter.

 

 

 

8 ounces Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese

1/2 cup Sugar in the Raw natural turbinado sugar

1-15 ounce can Libby’s pumpkin puree

1-15 ounce can Coco Lopez Cream of Coconut

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

“Graham Cracker” Crumble Topping (recipe follows)

 

Place Better than Cream Cheese, sugar, and pumpkin puree in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add cream of coconut, vanilla extract, cinnamon, ginger, and cloves and process until completely combined, again scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Chill mixture for several hours, freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions, transfer to a covered carton, and chill for several hours to “ripen.”   Serve sprinkled with “Graham Cracker” Crumble Topping, if desired.

Chilled, but not frozen, this delectable ice cream base makes a beautiful, creamy mousse.

 

“Graham Cracker” Crumble Topping:

1 cup matzo meal

3 tablespoons Sugar in the Raw natural turbinado sugar

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

5 tablespoons melted Earth Balance Original Buttery Spread, melted

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with Silpat or parchment paper. In a small bowl, combine all ingredients with a fork.   Press into a 1/4-inch thick circle on prepared baking sheet and bake 25 minutes or until golden brown; check after 20 minutes. Allow to cool, and break into pieces or crumbs of the desired size. Store in a covered container at room temperature.

Note:  For parve maple syrup, sea salt, ground spices, and vanilla extract, look for brands like Camp, Dan-D’s Foods, Danon Foods, Gefen, Liebers, Now Foods, Pereg, Prima, Sobeys Foods, Sobeys West, Victorian Epicure, etc.

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